Bad Manners

I was going to re-commence my daily diary today, as well as add a couple of thousand words to my NaNoWriMo novel, which is now entitled The Fourteenth Traitor, but I was so incensed by something that happened to me last night, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to write about what I see as a degradation of British society: the spread of ‘bad manners’.

Bad manners is a creeping disease of distastefulness that is increasingly invading our daily lives, and, quite frankly, being displayed by people who should know better because they are forgetting some basic lessons they probably learned as children, but these old-fashioned lessons no longer have a place in a society that dishes out fashionable human rights like free sweets at a children’s party but forgets how to butter the bread.

I have a grandson who has just turned two. His parents have painstakingly taught him to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. They are now working on table etiquette and not interrupting someone when they are talking to someone else. I have no doubt that, in the years to come, Charlie’s parents will teach him not to drop litter; respect for his elders; how to become a good citizen and to expect to have to work for a living.  Charlie has two shining examples to follow – his two older cousins, who have already been taught their Ps and Qs.

My own children were brought up the same way (although I do sometimes have to remind them – even now they are parents themselves!) I can remember once, my own parents having a confrontation with my brother – who must have been about five at the time – that lasted for an entire afternoon when he had thrown a pen at Mum in anger. The pen had fallen to the floor and Dad said to my younger brother: “now pick it up, and say sorry to your mother.”

Steve wouldn’t pick up the pen and he wouldn’t say sorry. Three hours later, and with many tears shed by both my brother and myself (who got into trouble, too, for answering back) he picked up the pen and said sorry to my mum.  Anyway, enough of the past. I am very proud of my grandchildren and the way they are being brought up, but sadly bad manners are now evident everywhere.

Not so many years ago Great Britain could hold its head up and showcase itself to the world as the undisputed world leader in good manners. Sadly, our country’s halo has now slipped alarmingly – and it is not cultural diversity that is to blame, either!

I think the changing man/woman roles in society is to blame. Years ago, on the whole women were homemakers and mothers and traditional family life ensured the majority of children were brought up with loving but firm boundaries and realistic expectations. Nowadays, every child has to be a genius when we all know that most of them are gloriously average. Sadly, nowadays being average is not good enough, and for those children who, deep down, know they are normal and average it is immensely stressful for them to strive for a level of attainment that was always going to be unattainable. This equals inevitable and predictable failure, which is demoralising as well as burning deep scars of inadequacy that could quite possibly last a lifetime. What is wrong with setting realistic expectations? If we give young people a goal they can stretch themselves to reach, but at the same time making sure that goal is within their reach but not outside of it, we are surely helping to create more confident and happy citizens than by telling them all they have to get straight Grade As and have to go to university to get a degree.

Secondly, what is so wrong about a young girl who aspires to be a mother and homemaker? Imagine the horrified gaze of a teacher of an academically-average fifteen year-old girl who says, when asked about her career choice. ‘I want to be a mum so there is no point in my taking my A levels. What can I do instead?’  instead of ‘I want to be an accountant so I need four grade As’ ?

Women used to be respected for their work in bringing up the nation’s children and creating a comfortable home life for the men in their lives, who were the main breadwinners. Nowadays, women are slated for wanting to follow their natural instincts to stay at home and look after their own children. Instead, they are expected to go out to work and pay someone else to look after them. With respect to the many wonderful childminders out there, how many of them are prepared to spend an entire afternoon teaching their charges respect for their elders and how to say ‘sorry’.  Not many, I suppose.

So everyone, lets all embark on a campaign to bring good manners back to Great Britain and go back to basics, teaching our children respect for parents/teachers/elders, to always say please and thank you, to hold open doors, give up seats when required and generally grow up into good parents who will pass their good manners on to their children as surely as if it was embedded in their genes.

As adults, we need to revisit the good manners of yesteryear and practise what we are preaching in our everyday lives.

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